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To celebrate its third anniversary of going digital, Shonen Jump is offering four issues for free in the next four weeks, as well as a discounted price of $19.99 for a one-year subscription. The free issues are available via the Shonen Jump website and the Viz Manga and Weekly Shonen Jump iOS and Android apps.
The nice thing about an anthology is the variety, and the Jan. 19 issue, the first to be offered for free, has a good mix of stories. There’s One Piece, the long-running pirate tale; if you’re not particular about understanding the details of the plot, you can jump right in and enjoy the kinetic, cartoony battle scenes.
Toriko is another classic Shonen Jump story, about a group of “gourmet hunters” who travel the world looking for foods that are rare, hard to get, and uniquely delicious. It’s an odd combination of battle and foodie manga, and it’s fun to see big, over-muscled guys get all weepy over a salad, as happens in this week’s chapter, or watch a gourmet dig into a bowl of “Ojiya-style eyeball porridge.” It’s amazingly imaginative, and well worth a read.
It’s deja vu all over again for the Diamond Gem Awards: Voted on by comics retailers, the winners this year look a lot like the 2013 lineup, with Image Comics and BOOM! Studios once again taking honors as top publishers in their divisions. Marvel was named top dollar publisher, DC Comics as top backlist publisher and Viz Media as top manga publisher — just like in 2012 and 2013.
The first issue of the widely acclaimed Ms. Marvel was honored as comic book of the year in the under $3 division, and Thor #1 was the choice among pricier comics. The Amazing Spider-Man #1 brought in the most dollars, however. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was named the best all-ages comic of the year, Batman: Earth One took the honors as best original graphic novel, and Box Brown’s Andre the Giant was the best indie comic.
In terms of who got what, DC Comics won seven awards, Marvel won six and Dark Horse won three, including best anthology for Dark Horse Presents, another three-peat.
Here’s the full list of winners:
Crime | Police have surrounded an industrial park in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, 25 miles north of Paris, where the two suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo are believed to be hiding. Police say brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi have taken over a print shop and are holding a hostage, and have reportedly told negotiators they wish to die as martyrs. The Associated Press reports that a second, apparently linked siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris is believed to involve Amedy Coulibaly, suspected of killing a police officer on Thursday. Police say he’s holding at least six hostages. [The Guardian]
Publishing | The British independent publisher Great Beast, which has released the work of Dan Berry, Marc Ellerby and Isabel Greenberg, among others, will close on Jan. 7. Founded in 2012 by Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, the publisher was something of a victim of its own success, as Cadwell explains: “As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place… We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work.” [Great Beast Blog]
Viz Media has acquired the rights to Fragments of Horror, the collection that marks horror master Junji Ito’s return to the genre after eight years.
The creator of such macabre manga as Tomie, Uzumaki and Gyo, Ito debuted Fragments of Horror last year in the inaugural issue of the relaunched Nemuki magazine. The collection was released in July in Japan.
Arriving next summer as part of the Viz Signature imprint, Fragments of Horror features tales “ranging from the terrifying to the comedic, from the erotic to the loathsome”: “An old wooden mansion that turns on its inhabitants. A dissection class with a most unusual subject. A funeral where the dead are definitely not laid to rest.”
Debuting in September 1984, the hugely popular cartoon was developed by World Events Productions, a small television production company based in St. Louis, Missouri. Several WEP executives had gone to a licensing convention and saw three Japanese shows they thought would do well in the United States. They requested the master tapes of all three, but Toei Company sent the wrong tapes for one of them, interpreting the request for the “one with the lion” as Beast King GoLion, although the WEP team had actually meant a different show. Ted Koplar, president and CEO of WEP, liked what he saw, recalling, “There was a human side that grabbed me.” Indeed, it became the most popular Voltron cartoon, Lion Force Voltron.
Last month, Viz Media released Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, a 30th anniversary commemorative book that includes a behind-the-scenes history of the show, photos of the many Voltron toys, and a guidebook to the characters and storylines. I spoke with Traci Todd, senior editor for children’s publishing at Viz and a huge Voltron fan herself, and Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director, about went into the making of the book.
Political cartoons | Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart, who was acquitted last month on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks out: “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.” Kart faced a possible penalty of nine years in prison if he had been found guilty, and it’s not clear the case is over yet, as Erdogan could appeal the acquittal.“Unfortunately, day by day, life is getting harder for independent and objective journalists in Turkey,” Kart said. [Index on Censorship]
Political cartoons | Syrian Kurdish cartoonist Dijwar Ibrahim talks about his anti-ISIS cartoons, which are on exhibit in Iraq. [Al-Shorfa]
Awards | Alexis Deacon has won the 2014 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize for “The River,” “a luscious, tangled, whispering kind of story” that earned him £1,000 (about $1,611 U.S.). The runners-up were Fionnuala Doran’s “Countess Markievicz” and Beth Dawson’s “After Life.” The short-story competition has been held annually since 2007 by London’s Comica Festival, publisher Jonathan Cape and The Observer newspaper. [The Observer]
Publishing | Mark Peters spotlights Archie Comics’ recent transformation from staid to startling, with titles like Afterlife With Archie and the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. [Salon]
Takeshi Obata, the renowned artist of Death Note and Hikaru no Go, made his first U.S. appearance earlier this month at New York Comic Con, where he participated in a couple of panels, met with journalists and signed autographs. Viz Media, which played host to Obata, was on hand to capture video (below) of the artist banging out sketches of Death Note characters Ryuk and L for undoubtedly ecstatic fans.
Obata spoke with ROBOT 6’s Brigid Alverson at the convention about character design, saying, “The clothes I put the characters in obviously become part of the characters, so I am really careful about how I dress them, for sure. I take a lot of care in that.”
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]
Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]
Passings | Egyptian cartoonist Mostafa Hussein died Saturday following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 79. Hussein had been a cartoonist for the state-owned Al Akbar newspaper since 1974, and was often accused of being sympathetic to those in power. His final cartoon, published in Al Akbar two days before he died, was inscribed “I ??don’t have time to finish this cartoon, forgive me. I will miss you.” [Ahram Online]
Awards | The Cartoonist Rights Network International (CRNI) has announced the winners of this year’s Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning, and for the first time in the history of the award they are women: Indian cartoonist Kanika Mishra and Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen. Mishra faced death threats for her cartoons about a religious leader who raped a 16-year-old (and eventually went to prison); Shaheen also was threatened with violence after she drew a cartoon depicting the Al-Quds Brigades as a dog in a cartoon critiquing Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s relationship with the organization. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Leyla Aker, Viz Media’s vice present of publishing, and Kevin Hamric, its director of publishing sales and marketing, discuss the state of the manga market and how the company’s books are selling through the print and digital channels (including comiXology, where Viz just signed on last month). One interesting tidbit: Viz products are carried by 64 percent of Diamond Comic Distributors’ accounts (i.e., comic shops). “Some of the store owners just don’t understand manga yet,” Hamric said. “They’re like librarians were years ago. They’re afraid of it, but if it’s children’s and Pokemon, or has a tie-in, especially to anime or television, then they’re not afraid to take it.” [ICv2]
Publishing | Tom Spurgeon talks to Drawn and Quarterly’s Tracy Hurren about the company’s new website, which launched this week, as well as life in the D+Q offices. [The Comics Reporter]
There are a lot of battle manga, and there are a lot of food manga, but Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro’s Toriko is one of the few where the hero battles the food — literally.
The series, which runs in both the American and Japanese versions of Shonen Jump, is about a gourmet hunter who tracks down the rarest foods in the world. Like the lead character in the foodie manga Oishinbo, Toriko is trying to assemble the greatest meal ever, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Passings | Retailer, creator, superhero fan and occasional crime-fighter Geoffrey Patterson Sr. died Sunday at age 72. The owner of Geoffrey’s Comic Shop in Gardena, California, Patterson created the character Captain Greedy, who appeared on local access TV and in the shop, as well as in comics. “Patterson was well-known for his eccentric love of super heroes,” writes Jordan England-Nelson. “His home in Torrance is decorated inside and out with super-hero statues, wooden cutouts and other comic book memorabilia. The home would get hundreds of visitors on Halloween, when Patterson would hand out comic books with candy and let people check out his superhero-themed graveyard.” And Patterson chased down purse snatchers and other wrongdoers on several different occasions, at least once while wearing his Captain Greedy costume. [The Daily Breeze]
More than 500 volumes of such top-selling manga as One Piece, Naruto and Death Note debuted today on comiXology as part of a new North American distribution agreement with Viz Media.
The publisher, which already had its own self-contained app for multiple platforms, brought its digital catalog to the Amazon Kindle in October; just days later, comiXology announced a deal to distribute titles from Viz Media Europe and its subsidiary Kazé to French-speaking European countries. Amazon purchased comiXology in April.